Sunday, 13 March 2011

WWF Wrestlemania VI - Retro Review

April 1st, 1990: It was only the second time I’d seen the grand-daddy of them all, and the first time I saw it live as Hulk Hogan squared off against the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania VI. But is it still as good as I remember it? That’s what I’m hoping to find out with this retro review.

The show began with Koko B. Ware taking on the man who gave his entrance music to Val Venis, the Model himself, Rick Martel.

A quick opener saw the Birdman pull off some good moves early on, before Martel took control and quickly locked in the Boston crab for the submission win. Not bad, but not really anything to write home about.

The first title match of the evening followed as one of my all-time favourite tag teams, Ax and Smash, aka Demolition, challenged Bobby Heenan’s Colossal Connection of Andre the Giant and Haku for the Tag Team titles.

This was Andre’s last WWF match. The poor guy was barely mobile at this point, with Haku carrying the workload for the team.

Demolition put in their usual entertaining brawling performance, and Haku looked good here. But when Andre came in and held Smash so Haku could take him the face painted one escaped from the Giant’s clutches, Haku’s kick taking Andre out of the equation.

It was the beginning of the end. Moments later Ax connected with the second rope elbow while Smash held Haku in position as Demolition took the pin and began their third reign as champions.

But that wasn’t the end of things. An irate Brain jumped into the ring and berated Andre, slapping him in the face. This was the nail in the coffin as far as Heenan was concerned as Andre took both Heenan and Haku out before leaving the arena to a roaring reception. A well executed encounter, and a nice way of turning the Giant face.

A battle of size versus power followed as Hercules went up against Earthquake.

This was another entertaining match as Herc tried to take the big guy down early on, but old Quake was just too big for him. Hercules would go on to a measure of success, but when he tried to life Earthquake onto his shoulders for the backbreaker that was it. Seconds later he fell victim to Earthquake’s sit down splash. The big guy looked great here, and it was needed considering what was in store for him in the weeks and months to come.

The next big grudge match saw Mr. Perfect, accompanied by the Genius, taking on Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. This match was set up after Beefcake’s encounter with the Genius at the Royal Rumble, with the brainy one getting an unwanted haircut.

Beefcake dominated Perfect early on, and it was only after Perfect clobbered him with the Genius’ metal scroll that he managed to get back into the match.

But Perfect’s showboating cost him as Beefcake catapulted him into the metal ring post. A three count later and the “perfect” record had come to an end.

The Barber’s fun didn’t end there as he managed to get hold of the Genius and finish the job he’d started a few months before. Surely Lanny’s hair would have grown back by then? As for the match, well, I was a mark for the Barber back then, so you can probably guess how I felt about this one.

Then it was on to Bad News Brown going up against the Rowdy man, Roddy Piper. This was the infamous match where Piper came down to the ring with half of his body blacked up, something you definitely couldn’t get away with in our politically correct world today.

No fancy wrestling holds in this one. This was just one big fight, with these two trying to beat the crap out of each other.

But despite all of their efforts there was no winner, with both men being counted out while they were brawling around the ring, continuing their fight all the way back up the aisle. I guess they weren’t interested in using one of those little cart things to take them back after what was a slightly disappointing affair, and this is coming from a massive Piper mark.

It was back to tag team action for the next match as the Hart Foundation, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, faced the Bolsheviks, Boris Zhukov and Nikolai Volkoff.

A quick match began when Neidhart attacked Volkoff while he was singing the Russian national anthem. Zhukov quickly fell to the Hart attack clothesline for the three count. Not quite the quickest match in Wrestlemania history, but it succeeded in re-establishing the Harts as credible challengers again.

Back in the singles ranks Tito Santana took on Bobby Heenan’s latest charge the Barbarian, still decked out in his Powers of Pain attire.

The one thing that Santana was really good at was making others look great. It was something he’d done time and time again, which was probably why he was put into this match.

Both guys looked good here, with Santana almost getting the pin after his patented flying forearm, only for Heenan to put his man’s on the bottom rope when Santana made the cover.

Moments later the Barbarian took Santana out with a top rope clothesline for the pin, impressing in his first big singles outing.

The first mixed tag match I ever saw followed as “Macho King” Randy Savage and Sensational Queen Sherri went up against Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire, the big surprise here being the appearance of Miss Elizabeth in their corner.

Let’s be honest here. The exchanges between Rhodes and Savage were well executed, but when Sherri and Sapphire went up against each other the match quality took a sudden downturn.

The end came with the help of Elizabeth, who pushed Sherri back into the ring as a grateful Sapphire used the old playground trick to pick her up for the pin. Well, I doubt if this will be remembered as a Wrestlemania classic.

The tag team action continued as the Rockers, Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty, faced Mr. Fuji’s Orient Express, Akio Sato and Pat Tanaka.

Now this was more like it. I’d forgotten how good this version of the Express was as they proved to be perfect adversaries for Michaels and Janetty, with both teams putting in great performances.

Fuji was involved in the ending, tapping Janetty with his cane as the Rockers were about to unleash their double fist drop. Janetty went after the manager, only for Sato to do the old powder in the eye routine. As Michaels went to help his partner the Rockers were counted out, giving Fuji’s men the win.

Then it was back to singles action as Dino Bravo, accompanied by Jimmy Hart and Earthquake, took on Hacksaw himself, Jim Duggan.

No technical stuff here, this was just two big guys beating on each other. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.

Duggan took the controversial win here. After seeing off Earthquake’s attempted interference he stopped Bravo from using his 2-by-4, clobbering the Canadian with the big bit of wood instead while the referee was other distracted, getting the three count moments later. But it didn’t do Duggan much good as Earthquake came into the ring and took him out with three sit down splashes.

One of the matches I really wanted to see again as Jake “The Snake” Roberts faced off against the original Million Dollar Man, Ted Dibiase, with Million Dollar Belt on the line.

Forget what you’ve seen about the Snake’s man offerings over the past few years. This was Jake Roberts at his best, going up against an equally worthy opponent in the form of Dibiase.

It’s a great match, although it could have done with being slightly longer. Dibiase took the count out win here, Virgil pushing him back into the ring after he’d applied the million dollar dream at ringside, Roberts countering by smashing him against the ring post.

Roberts had the last laugh, attacking Dibiase and Virgil from behind as they celebrated in the ring, taking Dibiase out with his patented DDT.

The battle of former tag team partners followed as Akeem, accompanied by Slick, faced the Big Boss Man, which meant I got to hear the greatest entrance song in wrestling history. You know what I’m talking about here.

This match was made after Ted Dibiase tried to bribe the Boss Man, immediately turning him face. Indeed, Dibiase had hidden under the ring after his match with Jake Roberts and attacked the Boss Man before the match began.

We then got a match that lasted just a few minutes. Akeem beat on the Boss Man for a while, the Boss Man returned the compliment before getting the pin after the Boss Man slam.

After Diamond Dallas Page drove the Honkytonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine to the ring so they could sing their new song (which was interrupted by the Bushwhackers) it was on to the penultimate match as Rick Rude took on Jimmy Snuka.

Another short and sweet encounter saw Snuka dominating for the most part, but when the Superfly missed a flying head butt Rude took control and the pin after the Rude awakening neck breaker.

Then it was on to the main event, the title versus title affair as Intercontinental Champion the Ultimate Warrior went up against WWF Champion Hulk Hogan.

Even after nearly 21 years I still get goose bumps whenever I watch this match. Although these two may not have been known for their technical prowess that didn’t matter, because this was a hell of an encounter.

For over twenty minutes Hogan and the Warrior put on a highly charged and highly emotional affair, a frantic back and forth encounter in which both men pulled out their big power moves.

Neither man was able to put the other way, but after the Warrior took Hogan down with the gorilla press/big splash combination the Hulkster kicked out of the pin, working towards his trademark finish.

But just as it looked like Hogan was going to win the Warrior moved out of the way of Hogan’s patented leg drop. A big splash later and the Warrior had the title winning pin, with Hogan presenting him with the title belt afterwards.

In conclusion - this was only the second WWF/E pay-per-view I’d seen live, and it’s still a very special show to me.

Even though the majority of these matches would be considered throwaway affairs by 2011 standards most of them are still very entertaining.

As for the main event, say what you want about the way Hogan and the Warrior have conducted themselves over the year you can’t deny that this was a classic match, one of the best of the 90’s. It really was the Ultimate Challenge.

So in all Wrestlemania VI gets the thumbs up. If you haven’t seen this show before it’s well worth watching. If you have it’s worth seeing again. It’s a tremendous piece of wrestling history.